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CenturyLink, one of the country's largest telecommunications providers, has a new employee, Harvard Business Review reports. She is Angie, who sends around 30,000 emails a day, identifies hot leads, sets up sales appointments, and then transfers the conversation to said sales rep.

Angie is artificial intelligence-powered, and has made CenturyLink $20 in new customer contracts for every dollar spent on her.

CenturyLink isn't alone: Other companies like Epson America and RapidMiner are using AI assistants, too. "AI tools are the only way I can scale 'helpfulness' to a global community of 200,000-plus users with a team of two," one chief marketing officer told HBR.

How it works: RapidMiner uses an automated chat tool called Drift, which assists with online customer inquiries and resolves almost two-thirds of them. RapidMiner Chief Marketing Officer Tom Wentworth told HBR: "It's the most productive thing I'm doing in marketing."

Epson's senior manager of commercial marketing, Chris Nickel, says he was "drowning" in leads, getting up to 60,000 a year after various outreach methods like email and trade shows. Salespeople were "inconsistent" in following up, but after employing an AI assistant similar to Angie, Epson saw a 240% increase in official customer responses from the baseline established at the start of the pilot, along with a 75% increase in qualified leads. Nickel said that, because of this, Epson produced $2 million in additional revenue in just 90 days.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
4 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.